Some of us want stories about villains, and few villains are more loved and feared than Doctor Hannibal Lecter. The evil mastermind has corrupted and cannibalized victims in novels, films, and television, but never in comic books. Part of the fun of Hannibal stories is how they play with perspective to tell thrilling tales of serial killers from unlikely viewpoints, and what better way to scare the hell out of fans than a series of comic books?
Hannibal Lecter, MD
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Richard Corben
Hannibal’s evil origins happened when as a young boy, he ate his murdered sister. Whether he was tricked into his first human meal or he embraced his dark side depends on the telling. His early years have been chronicled in the mediocre prequel Hannibal Rising. That story ends with Doctor Lecter’s residency at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
This comic is the story of the young surgeon Hannibal. Acting as a traditional prequel, we would follow the young doctor as he perfected his methods, mentally tortured his colleagues, and found clever ways to eat while on the job. What’s fun about a young Hannibal is that he hasn’t quite earned the demonic reputation he will take on as the Chesapeake Ripper. He’s got something to prove, mistakes to make, and a whole lot of growing to do before he is effortlessly creating impossible tableaus of gore overnight.
I immediately thought of the great Richard Corben for artwork. Corben has been doing celebrated indie comics as long as there’s been an indie comics movement in America. His work on “Ragemoor” chills me to this day, and there’s something deeply elemental about his work. So we need another writer who can compliment such a primal artist, and anyone who’s seen what Scott Snyder does with Jock on “Wytches” knows that he’s up for the task!
From the Files of Hannibal Lecter
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Joe Eisma
After leaving the hospital, Doctor Lecter becomes a psychiatrist- one who encourages his patients to act on their most awful impulses. In the Hannibal TV show, the bad doctor almost never tells people to murder their families straightforwardly, he asks cutting questions that carve away at their sense of morality until they are left insane bloodthirsty husks of their former selves.
This EC horror-style anthology comic would need to capture that subtlety. The framing narrative would always be told through Hannibal’s notes, as he corrupts his various patients. They would come to him with bad dreams, which he would turn into nightmares, and before too long they’d be subjecting themselves to hypnotherapy and hallucinogens on their doctor’s recommendation. Hannibal would never gloat in his files of course, but he wouldn’t be able to resist dark humor, double entendre, and references to classical art. In true EC style, each story would end with an ironic twist as the patients find themselves inflicting their own fears on the people around them. Plus we’d need a backup feature helpfully providing us with recipes from Doctor Lecter’s kitchen. Yum!
Al Ewing is one of the great writers of our time, and “Immortal Hulk” shows that he’s got no problem delivering serious scares. But this story needs to maintain that dark sense of humor and playful sense of fun. That’s why we’re going to put Joe Eisma on art. Eisma cut his teeth on the underrated Image series “Morning Glories” (a Multiversity favorite!) but moved into horror with “Jughead: The Hunger.” Together, these two could make a meal out of visual food puns.
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Joelle Jones
In Thomas Harris’s original novels, no one was slimier than tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds. In the TV adaptation, Freddie was recast as an amoral redheaded woman with a unique sense of style. Both Freddies are wonderful in their own disgusting ways, why not make them siblings? This comic would follow Freddy + Freddie Lounds, twin tabloid reporters covering sensational and grisly murders.Continued below
The best part of a Lounds story is how much worse they always manage to make the crimes they cover. They expose witnesses to danger, frame innocents as suspects, and always get the scoop that will bait the most clicks. Fashion would also be an important part of the comic’s visual style, so we’re going to need Joelle Jones to design the covers. No one can assemble mismatched plaids and animal prints with more aplomb than Jones.
For the writer, we’re going to give Joshua Hale Fialkov a shot. Fialkov is talented and creative but hasn’t been seen on a big book in a couple of years. He’s had his go at serious noir and goth vampire romance. If he leans into the darker parts of his imagination, Jones will be able to gussy up his grimy plots with leopard-spotted vinyl dresses and greasy comb-overs. Both creators know darkness and whimsy.
Written by Chip Zdarksy
Illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Doctor Frederick Chilton is another delightful bastard. His continued mismanagement of the Baltimore Hospital For the Criminally Insane makes him look as incompetent as the warden of Arkham Asylum. Chilton only wants to sell books about his inmates and get famous for dabbling with the grizzliest murderers the FBI has ever tracked down. This comicwould be a lot less episodic than the other titles- Chilton is always be spinning a lot of plates. Inmates are coming in, going out, murdering each other, getting murdered, all while Chilton is trying to get his next macabre tome published. The slippery doctor would be the foundation of the story, but he’d be joined by a cast of killers and backstabbers, some of whom would be patients and some of whom would be orderlies.
And then you turn up the heat and treat it like a twisted medical show. Doctors come in, get their faces bit off, quit, become patients themselves. There are secret affairs, bad choices made, maybe a bus full of inmates flips over. “Chilton’s Tales” would be as melodramatic as Grey’s Anatomy only with a lot more severed anatomy. And at its core would be one of the most promising, disgusting, wretched antiheroes ever put to the page.
When making a comic about a nuthouse, who better to turn to than certifiable lunatic Chip Zdarsky. Though Zdarsky first became famous for his humor, and then for his real-life antics, his Marvel-exclusive work has shown that he has tremendous range. His run on “Daredevil” in particular shows that Zdarsky can approach moody meditations on violence with as much skill as his zany stories about shapeshifting ducks. And honestly? That’s the space where this series would live.
Written by Alex de Campi
Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
Most fannibals are disappointed by the ultimate end to the story of Hannibal Lecter, which I am going to spoil right now. After failing to reprogram Agent Clarice Starling into a sort of psychological reincarnation of his sister, Clarice agrees to become Hannibal’s lover and the two of them go on the run together. In an epilogue a former guard of Hannibal’s spots them in South America and promptly gets the hell out of town. End of story. But why would Clarice fall for Hannibal like that? And how does their life together even work?
(Un)Fortunately, we have some clues in the Hannibal TV show, mainly through Hannibal’s relationship with his doctor Bedelia du Maurier. The mind games never really stop with Hannibal, and there is no taming the devil. He keeps pushing his depravity to new levels, and Bedelia needs to stay sharp just to stay alive. There’s definitely a love between them, and an affection, but there’s no trust. Everything is a game with deadly stakes.
“Starling” would continue the story from where the final book and film leave the characters. Clarice is far gone, broken and pushed far past the lines she never thought she would cross. But in her heart she’s still a good person, and she’s trying to bring down Hannibal once and for all. And Hannibal? He loves it! This is the happiest he’s ever been. On the run with his brilliant lover, her trying to get him arrested and him trying to push her farther and farther into evil? That’s his dream. And then what happens when they encounter an aged Will Graham?…Continued below
As this is intended to be the canonical continuation of a famous and beloved series, we need to give it to fearless creators. When pondering fearlessness, Alex de Campi was the first name that came to mind. I’ve never spoken to her about her Hannibal feelings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that Siouxsie Sioux song was her ringtone. Her sometimes psychedelic music-video inspired sensibilities would be perfect for this drug fueled story beyond the realms of sanity. We need to pair her with a real master of horror, and the only person up for the job is Francesco Francavilla. He can make humans look like monsters and vice versa. He’s the perfect person the bring de Campi’s nightmares to the page. Together the two of them would give Thomas Harris’s characters a much more fitting end than Harris ever did.